21 Feb, 2006

Armored Core: Formula Front Review

PSP Review | Time to battle it out with strategy.
The Armored Core franchise has a long history and was originally published in 1997. Since then it has become especially big in Japan and Armored Core: Formula Front is the first time that the series has made it onto a portable platform. Believe it or not there are actually over eight Armored Core titles, with customisation always playing a large part of the game.

Veteran Armored Core fans are likely to be rejoicing that Armored Core has made it's way to the PSP in PAL regions. The game was released fourteen months ago in Japan and has finally been released. At first glance Armored Core looks like a robot shooter, but the series is actually based more on strategy. Is the handheld experience just as good as on the consoles or has something gone wrong in the transition to a portable?

There is a lot less on field time than you'd expect

There is a lot less on field time than you'd expect
Whilst the game primarily a strategy title there is still a lot of fighting. The game starts by placing you as a rookie in charge of five Armored Core units. You have complete control over the units and you have to modify them so they are stronger. Surprisingly, Most of the action in the game is actually when you customise your units. It is literally possible to change hundreds of different parts and weapons on your unit and the level of customisation is both impressive and daunting at the very beginning. By allowing the player to have more than one Armored Core unit the game let's you customise your units to find the perfect setup.

Once you've customised your Armored Core you then send it into battle. It's possible to either take control of your unit or the computer can do the work for you. Beginners will generally be happy with just watching the robots do battle and customising at the beginning. If you'd prefer then you can actually take control of your Armored Core, which can be a lot more fulfilling. Taking control is a lot more complicated than it seems though and it is especially daunting for beginning players considering there is so much to learn.

There is also an ad-hoc wireless mode where you can connect with a friend and battle it out using the units that you've customised. It's also possible to exchange bots and emblems, but overall the multiplayer mode isn't very indepth. It would have been good if the game supported infrastructure mode because this would have meant that there was a little more to the multiplayer aspect of the game.

This is where most of the action happens

This is where most of the action happens
The core Armored Core game play hasn't changed that much which is both a positive and a negative. Fans of the series are likely to lap this game up because it offers more customisation and is a portable experience, the AI has also undergone a makeover and is a lot more intelligence than in previous games. However, the gameplay is still very stop start and it is very difficult to pick up and play if you haven't played an Armored Core title before. The loading can be a hassle at times and getting into the game takes a little while whilst you wait for the game to entirely load.

Graphically the game is impressive. There is a lot going on at once and the weapon effects are great. The units are well animated and they move around the battlefield with ease. There can be a lot going on screen at once and surprisingly the frame-rate never drops, although it would have been good if the environments weren't so sparce.

The game sounds good as well. There is a lot of great effects ranging from the explosions to the weapon noises. The sound effects really do create a large sense of immersion on the battlefield as well. The soundtrack consists of techno beats that play mostly in the background. The soundtrack isn't memorable though and as soon as the game is turned on you'll be over it, but at least the music isn't annoying.

More menus.

More menus.
Unfortunately the game won't last as long as you'd hope either. Ultimately, Armored Core’s entire lifespan depends on how much you enjoy customising the machines. The wireless multiplayer mode really is the saving grace of the game, although it would have been good if there was more to the game in single player. The lack of infrastructure mode is disappointing though, because if you don't have a friend with a copy of the game then you may not play the game as often as you'd think.

Armored Core: Formula Front is likely to please fans of the series but isn't a very approachable game for beginners. The title is a lot more strategic than most people will expect and those looking for an action robot game are recommended to look elsewhere. The only way to get any action out of the game is to take control of the units, but this is a complicated exercise. Armored Core: Formula Front is easy to recommend to fans of the franchise but the game isn't a huge advancement over the previous titles.
The Score
Armored Core: Formula Front is likely to satisfy Armored Core fans, but those who are looking for an action game are likely to be disappointed. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  9/02/2006 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $79.95 AU
  Red Ant
Year Made:

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